How Addiction Happens
Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Ecclesiastes 8:11
Though he used different language than we might, King Solomon seemed to know a great deal about, and must have had some personal experience with, addiction. He may not have used words like disease, positive reinforcement and impulsive behavior, but nevertheless, today’s passage provides significant insight into how we become addicted.
In the passage, he says that in our hearts, we all have evil desires. We might call them struggles or destructive appetites, but we all wrestle with some behavior that we wish we didn’t do, but still, we do it. For some, it’s overeating. For others, it’s explosive anger, lust, drinking, gambling, pride, greed, overworking or simply laziness. Whatever it is, we all have behaviors which we do impulsively.
Then, because God did not make the world to be like touching a hot stove, we don’t always experience instant painful consequences from the destructive behavior. Rather, we get some immediate gratification for eating the donut, taking the pill or cheating. We get what we want, and we get away with it. This positive reinforcement encourages us to repeat a behavior until we become addicted to it.
It doesn’t take our minds long, and soon, we are doing something compulsively. We no longer make a voluntary choice because now, that behavior controls us. Only later, do we discover the pain of our actions. By then, it’s too late and we can’t quit, even when the thing becomes miserable. This is addiction, and this is how it happens.
Are we destined then, to wallow in the misery of our destructive appetites? This is certainly not God’s plan. Whether we like it or not, he allowed us to have our struggles, so that we may learn to depend on him. He made us, and he made us to be truly free only when we surrender following self to follow him. It is only in doing whatever it takes to abandon ourselves to pursue God, that we find true life, joy and peace instead of addiction, pain and misery.